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Jagr making Rangers history at record pace

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
· Game-by-game look at Jagr's

  113 points
· Goal-by-goal look at Jagr's 52
You can hear the chant no matter where Jaromir Jagr plays these days.

"M-V-P, M-V-P ..."

It might be harder to hear in opponents' arenas than in Madison Square Garden, where it has thundered through the building for the past several Rangers games, but there are Ranger fans everywhere, and wherever the Rangers play, the chant is sure to follow.

The chant was entirely audible on Wednesday night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Watching the game, you could hear it through your TV, as it became clear that Rangers fans had taken over the building for a very special night -- the night Jagr passed Jean Ratelle as the Rangers' most prolific scorer in any one of the Blueshirts' 79 seasons.

It's only fitting that Jagr broke Ratelle's record against the Islanders, because Jagr was dominating the Isles long before he arrived at the Rangers' doorstep on Jan. 23, 2004. In 73 career games against them, he now has 51 goals and 71 assists for 122 points.

Over the past 16 NHL regular seasons, no team has paid the price for Jagr's talent like the Islanders. They are the only team he has victimized for more than 100 career points and more than 50 goals. This season alone, Jagr has 16 points in six games against the Islanders. That's twice the damage Ratelle did to them when they were a first-year expansion team in 1972-73.

Ratelle's points record stood for 34 years, and it might have stood for 34 more if the Hall of Famer hadn't broken his ankle on March 1, 1972. That untimely injury caused Ratelle to miss the final 15 regular-season games as well as 10 postseason games.

Ratelle and Jagr took different roads to their records. By the time Ratelle passed Andy Bathgate's previous team points mark, he had been part of the Rangers organization for more than a decade. Jagr, on the other hand, needed just under one full season with the team to set a new standard for scoring greatness. This season alone, he has broken numerous team and league records, including:
  • Most points in one season by a Rangers player (passing Ratelle)
  • Most power-play goals in one season by a Rangers player (passing Vic Hadfield)
  • Most points in one season by a Rangers right wing (passing Rod Gilbert)
  • Most goals in one season by a Rangers right wing (passing Mike Gartner)
  • Most career points by a European-trained NHL player (passing Jari Kurri)
On Wednesday, Jagr tied another team record for assists in one season by a right wing. With his next assist, Jagr will pass Rod Gilbert's 61 from 1974-75. He is also already tied with Don Maloney and Mark Messier for the most game-winning goals by a Ranger in one season, and is on the verge of breaking Phil Esposito's team record for shots on goal by a Rangers player.

And then, of course, there is that other major record he will eclipse any day - Adam Graves' goals standard, set during the 1993-94 season that ended with a Stanley Cup. Jagr and Graves are currently tied at 52, and the way Jagr is scoring, the historic 53rd goal could come at any time..

Jag's of numbers are staggering when set in the context of Rangers history, but they are really nothing new to the NHL's top scorer, whose career highs are 62 goals, 87 assists and 149 points. He put up all of those numbers during the 1995-96 season - a year that ended in disappointment when his Pittsburgh team lost a to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Even the MVP award, for which he is certainly a candidate, wouldn't be new to Jagr, who emerged from Mario Lemieux's shadow to capture his first Hart Trophy in 1998-99. Although his numbers were down from his career highs, he also dominated the NHL that season to win the Art Ross Trophy for the third of five times.

During the years from 1997 to 2001, there was no question Jagr was the world's best hockey player. You couldn't hear his name mentioned without the superlative attached. But after three disappointing seasons in Washington, his critics began to question if he could ever regain his edge. This season, it's fair to say he has reclaimed the crown -- amazing his own coaches, teammates and hordes of pro scouts and media pundits in the process.

But for Jagr, the resurgence of the Rangers has been far more important than his own renaissance. In countless interviews, he has said that he is not interested in any records that don't get the Rangers into the playoffs, and there is no doubting his sincerity on that point. He is clearly a man on a mission. Consider what he said after a recent win over Toronto:

"I stopped looking at stats four years ago," Jagr told the press following the Rangers' 5-2 win over the Leafs on March 18. "That's why I now feel like I appreciate the team victory a lot more than I did before. We haven't accomplished anything yet. Our goal from the first game was to make the playoffs."

The Ratelle record was just one more milepost in Jaromir Jagr's drive toward this higher goal, but it might just be the one hockey record he was destined to break all along. After all, Jagr was born just three days after Ratelle passed Bathgate, and no one was able to pass Ratelle until Wednesday.
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